Magni Hippocratis Coaca Præsagia

Magni Hippocratis Coaca Præsagia





460 BC. Cos - Larissa, 377 BC

A medieval Latin translations of classic Greek work attributed to Hippocrates.

Magni Hippocratis Coaca Præsagia -Translated and edited by Jacques Houllier.  Published in Lyon, 1576 by Guillaume Rouille, this book was purchased on line from an antique book store in Modena, Italy in June 2019.

It is important to understand that what we believe as the work of Hippocrates of Cos (~460 BC. Cos - Larissa, 377 BC), is in fact a collection of ancient Greek medical wisdom written by at least 19 different authors, none probably by Hippocrates himself, wisdom that was refined across several centuries (5th century BC through 1st century AD), influenced by physician’s experience from the School of Cos, Cneidos and Alexandria. These works collectively are termed the Corpus Hippocraticus and include about 70 books. Almost none survived in its original form. Over the first millennium they were translated into Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic and in the middle of the 16th century into Latin. The invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century facilitated republishing works attributed to the classics of the antique world, including Hippocrates. The first Latin translation of his work appeared in 1525. Subsequent translations and editions of the Corpus Hippocraticus were improvements of previous versions. There are two particular editions that worth mentioning, the one published in 1576 by James Hollerius Stempani (Jacque Houllier, ~1502 -1562), a French physician. This work covers The Coan Prenotions, and it is the precise volume we now acquired.

Hippocrates' Coan Prenotions or Prognostics is a form of Vademecum, a handbook that was kept constantly at hand by practicing physicians of the Ancient time. The term Coan depicts a follower of the School of Cos, the island with the same name where Hippocrates was born and where presumably taught. This, to distinguish from the rival School of Cneidos, across from Cos. The Coan Prenotions are now universally accepted to be a compilation derivative of the Prognostics, a Hippocratic work.

The Coan Prenotions is divided into 24 chapters and has a total of 640 prognostic statements. They cover the following areas: Chills - prognostoc statement 1-30, Signs of fevers 31–136, Crises 137–155, Headache 156–184, Ears 185–207, Face and Mouth 208–239, Language and breathing 240–255, Throat and neck 256–272, Hypochondrium 273–297, Loins 298–319, Haemorrhages 320–340, Spasms and convulsions 341–356, Angina 357–372, Lungs 373–436, Abdominal viscera 437–465, Mental and neurological 466–476, General signs of diseases 477–487, Wounds 488–501, Significance of age in diseases 502, Diseases of women 503–544, Vomiting 545–560, Sweating 561–563, Urines 564–588, and Stools 589–640.

An example of "Prognostics" that was used by Coan physicians is:

  • #239. Frequent expectoration, if some other sign is present as well, indicates phrenitis.
  • #240. Loss of speech together with faintness is a very bad sign.

The statements indicate the limitation physicians had in the absence of sufficient anatomical and scientific knowledge.

A short note about Jacques Houllier (~1502 -1562), the editor, translator and Hellenist responsible for interpreting and updating the Hippocratic knowledge prevalent for 2000 years. He obtained his medical education from University of Paris, Faculty of Medicine where in 1546-47 he became its Dean. He practiced medicine and surgery and was considered a highly skilled practitioner. He insisted on restoring the Hippocratic principles to the practice of medicine, ethics, honesty and no pecuniary benefit from treating patients. Along the way he Houllier also mentored students like Anuce Foës, the Latin translator and editor of a second recent acquisition.

Editorial notes by Andrew I Spielman.

Digital Versions

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